After observing how experts around the world developed their face and hand transplant programs, the Mayo Clinic is getting ready to offer them.
Mayo is beginning with hand transplants which are available now, with the face transplant program to follow in the “near future,” said Dr. Samir Mardini, program director for Mayo Clinic’s division of Plastic Surgery. He will lead the face transplant team once the program begins accepting patients. Dr. Steven Moran, also with the division of plastic surgery, will conduct all hand transplants.
Not surprisingly the biggest demand is expected to come from the Department of Defense to treat soldiers who were severely injured during war. But in a recent interview, Mardini said that even civilians may opt to avail of his or Dr. Moran’s expertise.
“There are patients who have different kinds of trauma, burns, neurofibromatosis affecting their face, Mardini said. “Those types of patients also benefit from face transplantation. And hand transplant patients are mostly those that suffered trauma.”
According to Mayo, the face and hand transplantation program is supported by a $10 million gift that came from Tarek Obaidannounced last August. Obaid isa Saudi citizen and CEO of PetroSaudi, who also happens to be Mardini’s childhood friend. Moran and Mardini are co-directors of the Essam and Dalal Obaid Center for Reconstructive Transplant Center, named after Obaid’s parents.
Worldwide about 60 hand transplants have been performed. Face transplants are more complicated with only 22 performed around the world with six of them in the U.S., Mardini said. The world’s face partial transplant occurred in 2005 in the well-publicized case of a woman whose face was mauled by a dog.
Mardini did not really address why Mayo was rolling out the programs now, but appeared to suggest that it was better to proceed cautiously given how complex the procedures are. Face transplants can take anywhere from 17 to 35 hours, he said.
“Although you get amazing results, you have to be sure that the conventional methods would not have given you enough of a result, that you would not have to commit someone to such a major procedure,” Mardini said, adding that patients who undergo these reconstructive procedures would have to be on immunosuppressants for the rest of their life.
[Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net]